from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Ragbag: poetry and prose; sea and forest; bluebell time; naming

At last. The final draft of my new poetry collection (collected poems from my 17 years leading retreats on the Isle of Iona) has gone off (by invitation) to a publisher. No guarantee she'll like it, but the process of collecting and revising has given me a serious boost at a time when my writing well, other than the work of narrative non-fiction I've been writing in Brittany, is rather dry (that's partly why there've been no blogs).


I've had a dreamy time in the Forest, especially by the local pool, and the first draft of my new book is just about there. As a contrast from sitting and thinking and typing it was a delight to discover the local voie verte, the long-distance green lane by the river, from a bicycle.

Coming back, the sea is once again a mirror; an obsidian mirror this time, black and oily despite, or because of, the haze hanging below the summer heat.

Gannets dive past the bow window where I'm sitting. Off to my left what I think is a gannet primary wing feather drifts past westering, then I realise it's another sliver of plastic off to join the great smother that is the plastic party, happening somewhere in an ocean near you.

What if we established a national group with local branches for a picking-up-plastic beach day every month? Maybe there is such a group?


Now, this May dusk, is the perfect time for TM and I to head out to the little wooded coombe on Dartmoor where we go in May each year for a spread of bluebells (they're later up on the moor) so rich their ultraviolet hurts your eyes.

We trek in a perfect luminous lilac-pink dusk along beside the beautiful brook. (My camera has packed up, so these photos are old ones.)

I love this place. It's a scrap of ancient woodland, with small birches and rowans, the pioneer trees, on the edges; in the heart of the coombe little oaks, sessile and pedunculate, much broader than they are tall, and hosting hollies and ashes in their arms, wrapped around granite boulders.

It's the only time TM does anything other than stride. I need slowness and dreaming time when I'm out walking, so it's a treat for me to stroll, to greet the trees I know so well.

As in this photo, above, the hawthorn trees are drowned in their white blossom. Some among them are pink this year – I never remember why some usually-white blossom turns pink some years – presumably to do with changing seasonal weather conditions, and minerals? If you know, I'd love your comment. (Not enough connectivity for me to check it out on the internet.)
There's a cuckoo; then another. The Dart, where the little brook joins it, has garlands of chrome-yellow gorse and broom flowers tidelining its rocks. We sit and gaze in a dream of silence for a while, until the midges drive us off our mossy rocks.
To my utter bliss, there's a small herd of feral Dartmoor ponies in the coombe. They're plump and glossy – some winters are so hard that they're bony even in May, but not this year.

Horses have played a big part in my life most of my life. I've been deprived of their regular company for 4 or 5 years now, though, and I need a dose of Horse Medicine. (There's an early blog of mine about this here.)

I sit quietly in the middle of the herd on a rock, and the bolder ones approach and sniff my face and hair.

I'm in paradise.

On a different note, I think a lot about naming: I mean the act of giving something a name. I was thinking about this as I greeted the trees, with their species' names.

On the one hand, it allows an intimacy; on the other, it stops us really seeing. (I've written various articles on this and have probably written about it somewhere in these blogs, too.)

I was dipping into a book by the non-dual teacher Adyashanti this morning, and refound this:

'The great spiritual teacher Krishnamurti once said "When you teach a child that a bird is named 'bird', the child will never see the bird again."' Adyashanti continues: 'What they'll see is the word "bird". That's what they'll see and feel, and when they look up in the sky and see that strange, winged being take flight, they'll forget that what is actually there is a great mystery. They'll forget that they really don't know what it is. They'll forget that that thing flying through the sky is beyond all words, that it's an expression of the immensity of life. It's actually an extraordinary and wondrous thing that flies through the sky. But as soon as we name it, we think that we know what it is...' (from Falling Into Grace)

The remedy? Make relationship with the small, the local, the specific. Watch it; learn its habits. Be quick to know its ways; be slow to name it.


  1. I'm interested by your comment that the hawthorn is usually white but rather pinkish this year. I've noticed this too: a rose that should be pink is white, a japanese cherry that should have been pale yellow was white, and oddest of all a neighbour's orange rose is a rather pleasing flesh pink this year. Could it be droughth (we had a long dry spring), or a warm April or a late sharp frost – ?

  2. Oh that's interesting! Not noticed it in other plants. Yes, frost - possible, I guess. Drought? Maybe. Will see if it correlates in future years.

    Haven't yet found any info online.

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. Hi Roselle,
    I've been thinking about what you say regarding naming. I have found that names in a foreign language immediately alter the way I look at things, how it gives me a new way of perceiving them.
    So good to hear of your progress back into poetry.
    Love Chris x

  4. Ah - good point, Chris. I know what you mean, too. Are you thinking about Gaelic??

    And - what about one or two of your beautiful 100-word pieces for here? x

  5. Yes, I too have been intrigued by this subject of naming. Walking is a great time to ponder and practise so this morning at sunrise (even that is naming), listening to larks, watching them up high until I nearly lose balance, I like to think that I am just riveted by whatever holds my attention. I don't see them as birds or sun or sky. But –– once home and starting to write – I realise that what I really do is spend ages trying to find the right words to describe these magical sightings. So the lark becomes blitheling. I like that, I might think. And then there are the times when I stare at something and say: just this once I'm not searching for words, I'll leave it alone and simply see it for what it is. And I feel liberated and all around seems liberated. Don't think keep quiet watch listen smell touch feel

    Thanks Roselle and Chris for making me think, look forward to taking the subject further – or would that be too much like naming?
    Love, Miriam
    PS the first response on plant colour was from Jeff (he's okayed this btw). He couldn't get the Name/URL to work. Namelessness is perhaps preferable!

  6. Ah Miri I love 'blitheling'! And I really like the idea of naming something - if one does at all – by the qualities one perceives it to embody (even though that might be subjective). I like your nameless attentiveness.

    I see a lot of my work as being about reminding people to gaze, slow down, to really look and listen, to dwell, to allow ourselves the space and openness to become intimate with the world. Seems such a lost art.

    When I've finished the Forest book I've a collection of essays nearly completed; one of them is about this. Fascinating subject.

    Thank you both for the comments. If Jeff finds out any more about what causes the changes in some plants some years and not others, I'd love to know.

    Love to you both. Rx

  7. Can't wait to read both Forest book and essays!

    Miri x

  8. Thank you for that lovely vote of confidence, Miri! x


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